A Research Graphic Organizer That Will Save You a Lot of Headache

At the beginning of the school year, my 5th graders were asked to do a research paper- a task the students and I both dread for different reasons. To put it simply, they didn’t like doing it because it was a lot of work. I, on the other hand, worried about them using online sources and plagiarizing from them. To solve our problems, I created a graphic organizer on Google Docs that saved us all a lot of time, stress, and even managed to make the whole learning process much easier.

image of graphic organizerStarting off, the graphic organizer doesn’t look that impressive, but as I tell my students the boxes will expand based on how much information they input in there. Also, I did notice that they didn’t feel overwhelmed starting this project because the graphic organizer just looks like a small worksheet that they needed to fill out. Them feeling that way is already a good starting point to this whole research process.

Step-By-Step to Using the Graphic Organizer

Anytime I am doing a research paper, I find myself having the most trouble doing the introduction paragraph since it is the paragraph that grabs the readers’ attention. With that at stake, I told my students to save that paragraph for later and to work on their three supporting paragraphs, which according to the graphic organizer,  are the reason 1, 2, and 3 draft boxes. Once they understand the task, they come up with three reasons to build their supporting paragraphs. For example, one of their tasks required them to write an opinion piece on who they believe is an important figure. That important figure should get the honor of having a monument made of himself or herself. With that understanding of the task and after deciding who they will research about, the students then come up with their first reason.

Let’s examine Justine’s research process to better understand what I am talking about. Justine’s first reason about why Dr. Seuss deserves a monument was because he was a good writer. She simply writes “good writer” in the same line that says “Reason 1 draft”. After that, she researches online about what makes Dr. Seuss a good writer and would then copy and paste that information into the “Notes” box as well as copying the website’s address into her “Source” box. Next, she reads and underlines the part that provides the evidence showing how he’s a good writer. After the underlining, she makes three brief bulleted notes using short phrases all in the “Notes” box.Image of a completed graphic organizer

The next step is developing her first supporting paragraph which becomes a challenge because she has to paraphrase her research to avoid plagiarism. From a teacher’s perspective, this organizer helps me to better understand her progress because I can see right away how her sentences are constructed as compared to the original source. It saves me time from having to research where she got her information and whether she copied the source. She then goes through the same process for developing the other supporting paragraphs and after all the research, she has a clearer vision of how she will develop both the introduction and conclusion paragraph. Once the whole organizer gets filled and approved by me, she cuts and pastes her paragraphs and formats them to look like an essay or in this case, a letter.

Image of a completed graphic organizer

Image of a completed essay.

Doing a research essay can be a very daunting experience for many students but using this graphic organizer has been a much easier process for all of us. It was definitely less of a headache to track them through the whole process, and I liked that it made learning more engaging and smoother for them.

 

Technology Use is a Foundational Skill

This school year I decided to make a conscious effort to help students develop the foundational skills needed for using technology in a kindergarten classroom. I chose a specific classroom, one with a teacher whom by her own admission is technophobic. She states constantly that she doesn’t have the capacity to teach her students to become better users of technology. She also claims that her students are not ready, nor are they capable, of using the computers for more than just game-playing, test-taking machines. (I took this on as a personal challenge, because) My philosophy is that kindergarten is the perfect grade for students to begin learning how to access and use some of the educational applications that are available to them.  So I took it as a personal challenge to devise a plan and demonstrate how this could be done for our kindergarten team.

Picture of a student on task.Students in the upper grades are becoming increasingly dependent on the use of their computers to not only complete daily assignments, but to also collaborate on group projects, complete research, and connect with the world. With this increased utilization of computers for productivity and learning in the intermediate, middle, and secondary grades; it only makes sense to begin teaching students how to become effective users of technology in the primary grades. Of course, our expectations and instruction should be reasonable and grade appropriate. We don’t expect kinder students to write full five-paragraph essays, nor do we expect them to know their multiplication facts or be able to read Lord of the Rings. So it stands to reason that we should not expect a kinder student to be able to use a computer as efficiently as a high-schooler would be able to use one. Just like with reading and mathematics, there are foundational skills that must be learned so that students can harness the computer as an educational tool and resource, and not just a gaming device.

Picture of students working on ChromebooksWhen I began working with this Kindergarten class we started off very slowly. By the time I entered into this classroom to embark on my personal challenge, the students already knew how to open their computer, access the apps that are available to them, and use the mouse pad, as well as the touchscreen.  I wanted them to launch their Google Chrome account and begin using some of the basic educational Google tools. We started with Google Docs and sharing Docs with their teacher. The classroom teacher asked if I was going to bring in a few 8th graders to help her students with logging in. I laughed and explained to her that would defeat the purpose of this exercise. I wanted to prepare these kids to be independent but she wanted to prove me wrong. I was amazed at how quiet the students were, engaged and ready to type whatever I told them to type. I showed them what we were going to learn, and what they would be able to do on their own once they learned the skill I was going to teach them. I provided each student with an 8 x 11 sheet of paper with their Username and Password information typed in large letters, which made it easy for the students to read. I demonstrated how to log in to their Google Chrome account and with very little support, each student was able to successfully log into their own account. Students were then able to launch Google Docs and type a simple sentence.  Then with minimal assistance, they were able to share this document with their classroom teacher. When each student received a response from their teacher they became very excited about the new technology skills they had just acquired they wanted to write more so that they could share with their teacher. These kindergartners were engaged and enthusiastic learners when they were presented with the opportunity to explore their Chromebooks in a more meaningful way. They could see how this new found skill directly impacted their own school work.

Picture of students working.As technology use becomes a more integral part of a child’s learning, it is essential that we teach the foundations of tech use as early as possible. With increasing access to smartphones and tablets, the digital divide seems to be shrinking faster and faster. Students who might not have had access to desktop computers a few years back, now have access to the Internet through smart devices and even gaming devices. Students proficiency in technology is often greater than academic skills such as letter identification and basic counting when they enter Kindergarten. We, as educators, must the recognize the importance of teaching the foundations of effective technology use for academic purposes.

Google Classroom for Kinders

Google Classroom in the Kindergarten class? Yes!  This platform gives students the opportunity to create, collaborate, learn and explore. Students discovered that they were capable of creating digitally. I would love to get more K-2 teachers on board with using Google Classroom!   It is not as hard as you think!

Picture of students working with Chromebooks.

Kinder students can work with Chromebooks!

To begin with, procedures must be established.  My students first became familiar with their Chromebooks using Imagine Learning. This program uses their Google account to login. You can use other programs as well. Each child should have their account information on a card which is taped to their desk.  They only need to input the one to one correspondence for each digit in their passcode. The problem with Kinder is that some of them are not developmentally ready to achieve the one to one correspondence successfully. They either lack the fine motor skills or the hand to eye coordination. This problem can be solved by the students who were more advanced.   They can simply go around and help other students logon. The first time we used Google Classroom I modeled it on the overhead projector. I went through the steps a couple of times then had a student come up and model the procedure also. The first few lessons should be done whole-group in order to help each child become successful. They learn how to navigate the site and what the expectations are for each lesson.

It might not be all smooth sailing at first.  We had a few problems. Five of my students could not log in at all.  They kept receiving a message that said their account had been blocked by the administration.  After looking into their accounts I discovered that they did not return their GAFE forms. My Kindergarten colleague has had the same problem in her classroom so it might be quite common. We thought we had 100% returned. After looking into the GAFE forms 3 of the students in question did return their GAFE forms. We are not sure what happened.

My school is an I.B. school.  This means we use an inquiry-based curriculum. Students are required to ask questions and research answers. Usually, the Kinders have their parents complete the research and share it with them. Google Classroom is more powerful.  They have some ownership of their research and they absolutely love it!

Student using Google Classroom.

Kinder students are able to navigate to Google Classroom on their own.

For example,  we were studying Endangered Animals. For the first lessons, I linked some introductory videos to the Google accounts and let the kids loose.  It was easy for them to log onto their accounts as they had previous experience. I was not prepared for the results. Two of the video links I had assigned worked perfectly well on my computer but were blocked on the student Chromebooks. I learned that this is a problem that happens because students and teachers are on separate networks and go through different filters. I need to test the videos using a student Chromebook and student account. How could I have known?

I encourage all Kindergarten teachers to embrace Google Classroom, challenge your students, and provide a more meaningful online experience.

When Did P.E. Become Fun Again?

Picture of students in Go Noodle

Mr. McCarty’s students participate with Go Noodle.

How do you use GoNoodle in your classroom?! For those who have not heard about this awesome program, you have now. GoNoodle and GoNoodle Plus activities are designed for interactive physical and participatory learning. Kids will follow fun and often catchy rhymes, dances, shakes, and repeat-after-mes.  

Once again, how do you use GoNoodle in your classroom?

Teachers are not just using GoNoodle for its fun indoor P.E. activities and lessons. Classrooms across the country are starting to turn their classrooms into CHAMPS. Registration is free, quick, and easy from the GoNoodle website, www.gonoodle.com. Once a teacher account has been created, teachers can project activities and lessons from their classroom projectors. Classrooms will be prompted to select a character for use. It takes about 40 activity videos for your character to ‘evolve in the GoNoodle Transmogrifier’. This will max out your character, allow you to print a completion certificate, and then select another character from the list of possible choices.

With the support of local sponsors, GoNoodle Plus has allowed for more videos to be created, partnerships with individual schools and classrooms, as well as give teachers access to printable lessons and worksheets that link to topics and standards that a video attempts to teach about.

How cool is that?!

Free graphic organizers, writing prompts, and lesson plans that teach physical fitness, strength training, nutrition, and goal setting skills that all students should know.

GoNoodle videos are shown every hour on the hour in Room 12. I have several alarms on my phone and the kids love hearing “Who Let The Dogs Out” (Woof..woof woof, woof woof)! Next, the students know that they have earned the right to quickly move around the room where they have room to participate. Like many of my own students, I do not like sitting down for too long, and these mini activities get the students up and out of their chair, socially participating, listening, moving and engaging with their classmates. Finally, it’s back to work! This Brain Break has allowed my 10-year-olds to get out their frustrations, be silly, have fun, burn calories, and get back to work with minimal effort.

Other opportunities to use GoNoodle in your classroom might include:

Whether you are an expert GoNoodler using CHAMPS every which way you can imagine, or a new teacher looking for classroom management strategies for your very first classroom, (or anywhere in between) GoNoodle is for you!

Feel free to watch the video linked here. My classroom was selected as GoNoodle’s Classroom of the Month in December of 2017.